Pakistan court backs first wife in landmark polygamy case | News | DW | 02.11.2017
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Pakistan court backs first wife in landmark polygamy case

A court in Pakistan has sentenced a man to several months in prison for marrying a second woman without his wife's consent. Activists say the landmark ruling is a huge win for women's rights in the Islamic country.

A judge in the northeastern city of Lahore ordered Shahzad Saqib to serve a six-month jail term and pay a fine of 200,000 Pakistani rupees (about €1,630 or $1,900) for taking a second wife, local media reported on Thursday.

The man's first wife, Ayesha Bibi, successfully argued that her husband had broken Pakistan's 2015 family law by going ahead with the marriage without her approval.

The court rejected the man's reasoning that he did not need permission because Islam allows men to have up to four wives. He has the right to appeal the verdict.

Read more: Women defy local traditions in Pakistan's Swat Valley

Empowering married women

Women's rights activists welcomed the ruling, saying it marked the first time a court had sided with the woman in a polygamy case.

Fauzia Viqar, chair of the Punjab Commission on the Status of Women, a body promoting women's rights, said the decision sets an important precedent.

Read more: Woman tortured and set on fire for refusing marriage proposal in Pakistan

"It will discourage polygamy and encourage women to take up their case with the courts. It will create awareness among people, in general, and women, in particular. Wronged women using this law will lead to their empowerment," Viqar said.

In the lead-up to the court decision, the country's Council of Islamic Ideology had repeatedly criticized the right of the first wife to have a say if her husband wishes to remarry. The panel advises the government on the compatibility of laws with Islam, but its recommendations are not legally binding.

Read more: Indian court rules against polygamy and stirs religious debate

There are no statistics on the prevalence of polygamy in Pakistan. According to the Institute of Policy Studies, an Islamabad-based nonprofit research organization, it is not widespread, but has been most common in rural areas in families without a male heir or in cases when men fell in love with another woman.

nm/rt (Reuters, epd, KNA)

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